Over the years, AFM Symphonic Player Conferences, such as ICSOM, have recognized the value of access to and direct engagement with national, state, and municipal policy makers. Legislators, in their turn, support positive government policies that shape our industry. When I returned as Legislative-Political Director of the AFM in 2013, the question I wanted to address is how do we, as a national arts labor organization, project even greater political presence? First and foremost, by being there.
So we were there. 2013 and 2014 saw the highest level of legislative and political activity in Washington, DC in the history of the AFM. Four issues dominated AFM government affairs activities: addressing new and adverse restrictions for traveling musicians who own instruments containing African elephant ivory; promulgation of rules for musical instruments as carry-on, cabin, and checked baggage; funding for the National Endowment for the Arts; and lobbying against tax incentives that encourage offshoring of film scores.
The AFM’s active engagement in federal policy actions last year on the aforementioned issues generated quite a lot of interest on Capitol Hill. Many members of Congress weighed in positively on those issues using their staff and constituent resources to develop amendments and send congressional letters to federal government department heads. One of the reasons that we were able to garner such support was that we were able to double the amount of contributions to these politicians from the levels of recent years past. This is exclusively because of increased contributions to TEMPO with the new TEMPO Signature Plan. Jennifer Mondie (ICSOM Governing Board Member at Large and National Symphony Orchestra Alternate Delegate) summed it up: “It has been very satisfying to see the progress that can be made when we, world-class orchestral artists, make our presence seen and heard on Capitol Hill. I am very excited to envision and help plan for an even further expansion of our presence through a more robustly-funded TEMPO fund.”
Created through President Hair’s office and the AFM International Executive Board, the TEMPO Signature Plan is planned giving of $1.00 per week for a year, realized as a one-time payment of $52.00. While no donation is ever too small, the average donation amount before the Plan had been $3. This is simply not the level of value I would like my fellow AFM members to associate with our legislative efforts. As Doug Rosenthal (ICSOM Delegate for the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra/Washington National Opera Orchestra) explains it, “Money talks. It’s not a reality I enjoy acknowledging, but it is a fact of life in 2015. After living in our nation’s capital for thirty months, I have personally observed that it takes more than a powerful message to move mountains. We all work so hard to advance the quality of our art form, and our contributions to TEMPO ensure that we can engage the lawmakers who will advance the respect and security of our art form.”
There are still big issues to address and exciting opportunities to create. TEMPO was integral to the successes of the past year. With the launch of the TEMPO Signature Plan, there is even more that can be accomplished. Issues that I would like to expand include a resolution to the African ivory issue, the perennial fight to better fund the NEA, and increasing our involvement with the work of the House Congressional Arts Caucus led by Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY 25) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ 7), a body comprising 157 members of congress (123 Democrats and 34 Republicans). Its mission is to support federal initiatives in the arts and to learn more about the impact of the arts on our economy, educational system, industry strength, healthcare costs, and service members returning from active duty overseas. It stands to reason that we as a community of artists are the direct beneficiaries of the daily work of this Caucus and that it is in our collective interests to see to it that those members of Congress who devote their time to advancing the arts in America are returned to Congress so they can continue to help. Finally, a new initiative for this year is establishing an annual “AFM on the Hill” day, similar to full-day events put on by other arts organizations such as Americans for the Arts, Grammys on the Hill, and the Rock caucus sponsored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
All of these areas for change and work would benefit from increasing the support I can find from my fellow AFM members, most importantly by greater participation in the TEMPO Signature Plan, but also any direct involvement that you can manage as well. Together we can spread the word about how our music is vital to the fabric of our society and everyday lives. I look forward to hearing from and working with as many ICSOM members as possible and seeing your names on the TEMPO Signature Plan enrollment list.
AFM TEMPO may accept contributions only from members of the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada, executive and professional staff of AFM and its affiliates, and their immediate families living in the same household. Only United States citizens and lawful permanent United States residents may contribute. AFM TEMPO makes contributions and expenditures in federal, state and local elections. All contributions are voluntary and an individual may refuse to contribute without any reprisal. Any guideline contribution amount is merely a suggestion and an individual is free to contribute more or less and AFM will not favor or disadvantage the individual by reason of the amount of a contribution or a decision not to contribute. Federal law requires the AFM to use its best efforts to collect and report the name, mailing address, occupation and name of employer of individuals whose contributions exceed $200 in a calendar year. Contributions and gifts to AFM TEMPO are not tax deductible. Contributions by foreign nationals, corporations or companies are prohibited.
As explained, TEMPO is open only to AFM members and their families.
If you are an AFM member and would like additional information about TEMPO or the TEMPO Signature Plan, please contact Sande Grier at (202) 274-4756 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or log into the AFM website (www.afm.org) and click on the TEMPO link.